Letter from Switzerland: No EV incentives in sight

In Switzerland, it’s not just the Alpine meadows that are green: every corner of the country can be reached by public transport, solar panels are ubiquitous, and recycling programs are strong.

When it comes to automobiles however, it’s a different story. The Swiss love their cars every bit as much as Americans do, and in recent years they’ve taken to SUVs in a big way. The mix of autos on Swiss roads is quite different from that of the US – hatchbacks and sedans from European brands dominate, and pickup trucks are seldom seen, except in the vicinity of farms. SUVs, however, are rapidly taking over – according to the trade group auto-schweiz, the market share of 4x4s grew from 25% in 2008 to over 48% in 2018.

As is the case in several countries, consumers’ love affair with SUVs has derailed efforts to meet previously agreed-upon emissions reduction goals. In a 2017 national referendum, the Swiss opted for an energy policy that limits CO2 emissions of new cars to an average of 95 grams per kilometer by 2020. However, auto importers are far from reaching that goal, and moving in the wrong direction. In 2017, the average was 134 grams/km, an increase over 2016.

Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard (who drives a Model S) recently convened a round-table discussion with representatives of the auto industry and environmental groups, where it was agreed that, in order to meet the country’s emissions target, the market share of electrified vehicles needed to grow from the current 2.7% to around 15%. However, Swiss policy-makers have been unable to agree on any measures whatsoever to make this happen.

The Swiss federal government has soundly rejected the idea of purchase incentives. Meanwhile, the auto lobby has introduced a couple of measures that will allow importers to exceed the emissions standards without incurring fines (between 2015 and 2017, auto importers paid around 18 million Swiss francs in fines). Jürg Grossen, a member of the Swiss Parliament for the Green Liberal Party (and also President of the organization Swiss E-Mobility), has proposed eliminating the loopholes, and earmarking part of the money collected from fines for investments in charging infrastructure. Both proposals were rejected by the Parliament.

 

Source: Berner Zeitung